It’s been a rough week for the Chargers, who not only lost to the Jaguars at home for the first time in franchise history but did so in embarrassing fashion while losing two of their best players for an extended period.
They now travel to Houston to face the Texans, who beat them in the trap game of the decade last season after Los Angeles had a COVID outbreak the week of the game.
While that’s not likely to be a concern this time, there are a few reasons to be worried come Sunday.
Without Rashawn Slater and Joey Bosa and potentially without Corey Linsley, JC Jackson, and Keenan Allen for another week, the Chargers are lacking a ton of star power on both sides of the ball coming into this one. Slater will be replaced by rookie Jamaree Salyer, who hasn’t played left tackle since the National Championship game for Georgia. Chris Rumph will fill in for Bosa, which he did in Jacksonville to mixed results. Salyer and Rumph getting starts is not ideal, and leaning on them to have a big impact could spell disaster.
Rookie defensive backs playing well
Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre have gotten off to hot starts this season for Houston. Stingley has had his ups and downs, especially in zone, but you can see him learning and making adjustments practically play by play in every game. Pitre had two interceptions and a sack last week against Chicago in his big introduction to the NFL audience and has received plenty of praise from veterans in Houston for his play. With as much as Mike Williams has struggled to consistently find space to be thrown the football, the rookies could again have a big impact against LA. Expect Stingley to stick to Williams while Pitre roams around and covers Gerald Everett, who’s been a primary target in Joe Lombardi’s short passing game offense.
Constantly fresh rushers
Houston has four players who have at least 30 pass-rush snaps this season, per PFF. Of those, the lowest pass rush win rate is Jonathan Greenard at 12.3. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is at 15.6, while Rasheem Green and Jerry Hughes are over 18 percent on the season. That puts all four of them in the top 70 in the league amongst players with at least 30 snaps, which means that Houston can keep everyone at their best. That’s especially important for the 34-year-old Hughes, whose reduced pass rush workload has resulted in a very efficient season thus far. Against a rookie making his first career start, the constant rotation may prevent Salyer from getting into a rhythm, potentially causing problems for Justin Herbert in the pocket.
Running game improvements
Houston hasn’t been great running the ball in 2022, but Dameon Pierce has shown signs of becoming a true No. 1 running back. He’s still splitting carries with Rex Burkhead, who beat up the Chargers to the tune of 149 yards last season. LA’s run defense has improved since then, of course, but Joey Bosa is a big part of that unit’s proficiency. With Rumph playing instead, we saw Jacksonville target the second-year player in the run game due to his lack of play strength. If Houston keys in on Rumph the same way, this could be Pierce’s national coming out party.